Environmental Protection Agency officials appointed by former President Donald Trump kept two fired agency employees on the government payroll after they were ousted, Politico reported.
The revelation comes from a March report by the agency’s inspector general that Politico obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The report said chief of staff Ryan Jackson directed former White House liaison Charles Munoz, to authorize almost $38,000 in improper payments for the two former staffers – one of whom had been fired, and the other forced out after refusing to resign, according to Politico.
The identities of the two former staffers. who were improperly paid was redacted in the report. The first individual was fired in 2017 and Munoz told investigators Jackson ordered him to make sure the person was still getting paid after they were ousted, the report said.
Munoz said Jackson told him to tell human resources the individual was working remotely which, according to the report, was meant to ensure the fired employee would keep getting paid.
“Mr. Munoz explained that he believed Mr. Jackson would not be happy if he had not followed Mr. Jackson’s order to get additional pay for [the person] after [their] termination,” the inspector general’s report said according to Politico, which indicated this person got more than $14,000 in improper payments.
The second individual was asked to resign, and when they didn’t, an armed guard led them out of the building, Politico reported. Jackson said he didn’t want to have this individual have a “break in service” while looking for another job. That individual got close to $24,000 in improper payments, the inspector general’s report said according to Politico.
Both Jackson and Munoz have left the EPA and federal prosecutors had declined to press charges against them over the findings in the inspector general’s report, Politico reported.
The report also zeroed in on Munoz himself, saying he received an improper raise and submitted “fraudulent timesheets,” which cost the agency almost $96,000.
The US Environmental Protection Agency in April alleged that Tesla failed to comply with emissions-reporting standards for its cars’ coatings, the automaker revealed in a regulatory filing on Wednesday.
“In April 2021, we received a notice from the Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”) alleging that Tesla failed to provide records demonstrating compliance with certain requirements under the applicable National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants under the Clean Air Act of 1963,” Tesla said in the quarterly filing.
Tesla denied the allegations and said it has responded to all of the EPA’s information requests.
The carmaker said it does not expect the situation to have a “material adverse impact on our business.” In an emailed statement to Insider, an EPA spokesperson said the agency does not comment on enforcement matters.
The rule Tesla allegedly violated is meant to curb hazardous emissions from surface coatings used by automakers.
The real battery ranges of Tesla’s electric vehicles fall below their official EPA estimates, according to a new study by Edmunds.
For some models, this remains the case even when a range of caveats are met, including the cars’ safety buffers.
In February, Edmunds tested a range of electric vehicles from makers including Tesla, Ford, and Volkswagen against their EPA-estimated range. Though Tesla’s Model 3 Long Range came out on top overall, Edmunds found that each of the five Teslas it tested failed ultimately to hit their estimates.
Tesla then directly got into contact with it to dispute the results, Edmunds said.
Tesla told Edmunds that the full range of its vehicles’ batteries was not being accounted for because Edmunds hadn’t included the safety buffer, which are the additional miles a car can travel even after it indicates it’s reached zero range.
Tesla told Edmunds that if it included the safety buffer and drove the cars until they could physically move no longer, its vehicles would match the EPA figures.
So Edmunds retested the vehicles.
Edmunds first tested the cars on a testing ground, because “driving a group of EVs to a stop on a public road is far from advisable,” it said.
It tested a 2020 Model 3 Standard Range Plus, a 2021 Model 3 Long Range, and a 2020 Model Y Performance, alongside two control vehicles from Ford and Volkswagen.
Edmunds said that range meters often take recent driving habits into account when forecasting remaining range, so it set a range of control criteria.
These included charging the vehicles to 100% overnight, setting the cars’ climate control to the same temperature and keeping the audio systems off to conserve power, and driving at a constant speed of 65 mph – the average speed limit for urban interstate highways in the US.
Edmunds measured how far each vehicle could go until its battery completely stopped, which it said was the basis of Tesla’s challenge.
But Edmunds also measured how far each car could drive after it reached an indicated zero miles while still maintaining 65 mph, which it classed as a “more realistic endpoint.”
“If a vehicle isn’t able to maintain a safe highway speed (65 mph) on a flat road like at our test facility, then it’s probably unsafe to be on public roads,” Edmunds wrote in its analysis.
Edmunds then tested the 2021 Model 3 Long Range and 2020 Model Y Performance on its own standardized test route, which is 60% city and 40% highway. Edmunds said it expected the vehicles to have a bigger safety buffer range on this route, because most electric vehicles are less efficient at highway speeds than in the city.
But Edmunds said it was surprised to find that both Teslas actually had shorter buffer ranges in the second test.
Tesla told Edmunds that “the buffer cannot be defined exactly to a number every time.” Its engineers said that the buffer changed based on external conditions and driving style.
The engineers also said the range remaining is a software estimate, and that these are conservative “so there’s always some energy left to help get drivers to the next charging point when needed.”
Edmunds concluded that the 2021 Model 3 Long Range and Tesla Model S Performance do meet their EPA range estimates in real-world conditions, but only if they meet caveats such as being driven beyond the point where the indicated range drops to zero and without too many extra facilities using its power, such as strong climate settings. Edmunds also found that the cars would only reach their range if they’re charged to 100% battery capacity – which it said Tesla does not recommend for daily use.
Even under these conditions, the 2020 Model 3 Standard Range Plus, 2020 Model Y Performance, and 2018 Model 3 Performance wouldn’t meet their EPA targets, Edmunds said.
The 2020 Model Y Performance, for example, has an EPA-estimated range of 291 miles. In Edmunds’ initial test in February, its range to indicated zero was actually 263 miles – 28 miles less. On the testing ground, it only traveled a further 12.6 miles after reaching indicated zero range. On Edmunds’ test loop, which has more city conditions, it traveled a further 11.1 miles.
Edmunds added that many drivers wouldn’t expect an electric vehicle’s buffer range to be included in the EPA’s range estimate, and that it’s difficult to know how much extra range there is beyond an indicated zero. Edmunds also said that using a car’s buffer range regularly could increase charging time and potentially run down batteries quicker.
After a damning USA Today investigation linked a popular flea and tick collar to nearly 1,700 pet deaths, a Congressional subcommittee is calling for the products to be temporarily recalled.
“I think that it’s only appropriate in this case that the manufacturer do a voluntary recall,” Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, chairman of the House subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, told CBS News. “And I think that it’s appropriate, out of an abundance of caution, that we step back, we look at the situation, investigate and proceed from there.”
USA Today revealed earlier this month that more than 75,000 incidents involving Seresto collars had been reported to the EPA between 2012 and June 2020. These reports linked the collars to tens of thousands of animal injuries; 900 of the incidents involved people.
According to the EPA, which approved the collars in 2012, the Seresto collars “are made of plastic impregnated with insecticides,” which are released into an animal’s fur over a period of eight months. The agency does not consider those insecticides, flumethrin and imidacloprid, to be harmful to pets or humans. But a 2012 study by Bayer found that the two have a “synergistic effect” and are more toxic to fleas when paired together.
Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, told USA Today that “synergistic effect” likely applies to animals, too.
Krishnamoorthi sent a letter to pharmaceutical giant Bayer – which developed the collars – on Thursday requesting more information about the products’ toxicity. He sent another letter to Elanco, the company that sells the collars, asking it to recall the products and issue refunds.
‘I know these collars killed my dogs’
When Karen Hufman read the USA Today report, her family was still grieving for their dog Charlie, who died in August.
“I was floored,” she told Insider. “I said, ‘Oh my god, now I know these collars killed my dogs.'”
Hufman said she bought Seresto collars for Charlie and her other dog, Muffin, in October 2018 and June 2019. After that second instance, Muffin, a 12-year-old Petit Basset Griffon Vendée, stopped eating. She died a month later.
Charlie, an English pointer-Beagle mix who was also about 12, got his third Seresto collar in February. Weeks later, he was diagnosed with a bladder infection, and then cancer. One study has linked dogs’ exposure to certain topical insecticides – though not the ones Seresto uses – to an increased risk of bladder cancer.
“This month I finally put it together: It was the collars. It was just too much of a coincidence,” Hufman said.
She added that before their deaths, both of her dogs had been in excellent health – they got exercise and ate high-quality food. Still, she doesn’t have any evidence the collars were the cause of their deaths, and hasn’t filed any reports to the EPA.
According to Elanco, of the 25 million Seresto collars sold since 2012, less than 0.3% have been linked to incidents.
“The recent media reports were based on raw data and cannot be used to draw conclusions on what may have actually caused the issues,” Tony Rumschlag, senior director for technical consultants at Elanco, said in a statement to Insider, adding, “it is critically important to understand that a report is not an indication of cause.”
Keri McGrath, a spokeswoman for Elanco, told Insider that the company is cooperating with the House subcommittee’s request for information, but that “no market action, such as a recall, is warranted.”
“Elanco continues to stand behind the safety profile for Seresto,” she added.
The 1,700 deaths could be an undercount
Before the USA Today report, the House subcommittee members hadn’t heard about any issues with Seresto products. But now they’ve asked Elanco and Bayer to disclose any communications they’ve had regarding the collars’ toxicity with regulatory groups like the EPA.
The subcommittee members think there are probably far more Seresto incidents than the number reported to the EPA, since those reports only represent pet owners who’ve realized there could be a link between the collar and their pet’s issue and then filled out a form or called the agency.
“We believe that the actual number of deaths and injuries is much greater, since the average consumer would not know to report pet harm to EPA, an agency seemingly unrelated to consumer pet products,” Krishnamoorthi wrote in his letters.
Hufman could be one such consumer.
“My two dogs aren’t included in that 1,700 number,” she said.
McGrath said the onus isn’t on pet owners to report incidents related to Seresto collars to the EPA: “That’s not the expectation,” she said.
Rather, Bayer or Elanco should pass information about incidents to the EPA after customers or veterinarians call the companies’ hotlines. Veterinarians can also reach out directly to the EPA, she said.
The EPA has not issued any warnings to consumers about the collars, but an agency spokesperson told Insider earlier this month that it takes “every incident reported seriously and review these data to see whether action is necessary.”
Seresto flea collars are still among the top products of their kind on Amazon and other sites like Chewy.com. Amazon spokeswoman Mary Kate McCarthy told USA Today, however, that the company will now be “looking into the product in question.”
A popular flea and tick collar has been linked to nearly 1,700 pet deaths in the last seven years.
According to a USA Today investigation published Tuesday, these Seresto dog and cat collars have also injured tens of thousands of animals and harmed hundreds of people.
The report relied on documents acquired through a public-records request, which revealed that more than 75,000 Seresto collar-related incidents were reported to the Environmental Protection Agency between 2012 and June 2020. Many involved pets having allergic reactions in the spot the collar touched their fur. Some animals had seizures.
More than 900 incidents involved humans – one severe case involved a 12-year-old boy who was hospitalized with seizures and vomiting after sleeping with his collar-wearing dog.
The EPA regulates pesticide-containing products, but it has not issued any warnings to consumers about the potential risks associated with the collars. Karen McCormack, a retired EPA employee, told USA Today that Seresto collars have the most incidents of any pesticide pet product.
“The EPA appears to be turning a blind eye to this problem, and after seven years of an increasing number of incidents, they are telling the public that they are continuing to monitor the situation,” she said.
An EPA spokesperson told Insider that it takes “every incident reported seriously and review these data to see whether action is necessary.”
“The EPA encourages pet owners to read the entire label before using the pesticide product and follow all directions carefully, including monitoring your pet after application to see if side effects occur,” the spokesperson added. “If side effects develop, the label tells the consumer to consult the pet’s veterinarian immediately.”
‘Plastic impregnated with insecticides’
The Seresto collars were developed by pharmaceutical giant Bayer and sold by Elanco, a US pharma company.
Keri McGrath, a spokeswoman for Elanco, told Insider there is no established link between pet deaths and animals’ exposure to the active ingredients in the Seresto collars. The EPA first approved the product in March 2012, determining that the collars are safe for dogs older than seven weeks and cats older than 10 weeks.
“The article is misleading and misses several key pieces of information, leaving a skewed impression for readers,” she said of the USA Today investigation. “The numbers referenced in the original article represent the number of reports received and do not reflect causality.”
“A report is not an indication of cause,” McGrath added, noting that “if a dog were to be wearing a collar and experience any sort of adverse event, the collar would be mentioned in the report.”
According to the EPA, Seresto collars “are made of plastic impregnated with insecticides” that are released over a period of months and coat the animal’s fur. Those insecticides are flumethrin, which repels and kills ticks, and imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid that targets fleas.
A 2012 study by Bayer found the two insecticides have a “synergistic effect,” and are more toxic for fleas when paired together.
But Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, told USA Today that “synergistic effect” likely applies to animals, too. The center is the nonprofit that filed the public records request.
“For whatever reason, this combination is just really nasty,” Donley said.
The EPA does not consider either insecticide harmful for pets or people, though neonicotinoids are linked to bee die-offs around the globe, so some states have restricted their use.
McGrath said that more than 80 regulatory authorities around the world have “rigorously reviewed” the pet collar’s safety data, since Seresto is a globally marketed product.
‘He could barely walk without yelping in pain’
Seresto flea collars for dogs are among the top products of their kind on Amazon and other sites like Chewy.com. Bayer reported $300 million in revenue on Seresto products in 2019, according to USA Today.
The collars have 4.5 stars on Amazon, but some customers have left reviews describing their pets’ adverse reactions. Many involved rashes on dogs’ backs and necks.
One reviewer said her toy poodle’s behavior changed after the dog wore the collar for two weeks.
“He could barely walk without yelping in pain and was extremely lethargic. Within 24 hours of removing the Seresto collar, the symptoms started to subside,” she wrote.
Another reviewer said their Boston Terrier had a reaction after having the collar on for a day: “Red and raw spot on her neck that she won’t stop scratching, trembling, lethargic, no appetite,” the customer said.
According to McGrath, less than 1% of all collar users filed incident reports in 2020.
“The significant majority of these incidents relate to non-serious effects such as application site issues – reddening of the skin or hair loss below the collar,” she said.
But Donley told USA Today the number of reported incidents for Seresto is likely an undercount, since any pet owner who has filed a report with the EPA has first realized there could be a link between the collar and their pet’s issue, then reported it over the phone or using an online form.
“The fact that EPA has not done anything to alert the public that there might be an issue here, it strikes me as bordering on criminal,” Donley said.